Mother-of-three admits benefits fraud

Peter WalshA mother-of-three who fraudulently claimed more than �12,000 in benefits has been ordered to carry out 160 hours of unpaid work.Peter Walsh

A mother-of-three who fraudulently claimed more than �12,000 in benefits has been ordered to carry out 160 hours of unpaid work.

Rachel Stone, 31, appeared at Norwich Magistrates Court on Thursday charged with two counts of failing to give notice of a change in circumstances, one involving income support and the other involving housing and council tax benefit, between 21 May 2007 and 8 September 2008 and between 21 May 2007 and 21 September 2008.

Stephen Spence, prosecuting, said the case revolved around Stone's claim for income support, housing benefit, and council tax benefit.

He said Stone stated she was a single parent of three dependent children when in fact her partner, Mark Stone, had lived with her throughout the period she had claimed.

He said: 'She telephoned the claim line on May 17 2007. During that call explained her circumstances, the information was logged into a computer and a statement was sent out for her to check through and sign.'

Mr Spence said Stone, who said she had to stop work because of an injury and was in receipt of child maintenance and child tax credit, signed the paperwork when it came through and sent it back.

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But Mr Spence said it came to light that Stone had been living with her partner from at least April 2007. He said a surveillance operation was carried out and showed Mr Stone leaving the address on a number of days. Further checks carried out with other agencies, including banks and the DVLA, also confirmed that he lived at the same address.

The court heard that over 68 weeks Stone received �3, 298.75 in income support overpayments and �9,530.44 in housing benefit and council tax benefit making a total of �12, 829.19.

Julie Gowland, mitigating, said Stone should be given 'substantial credit' for her guilty pleas. She said things had been very difficult for Stone who was previously married, to the father of her children, but separated in 2004 and are now divorced.

She said her previous partner offered no 'financial or emotional' support to their children, one of which suffers from ADHD and has tendency to self harm.

She said Stone has been with her current partner since 2005 although they only started living together in 2007, but that he too had offered little support and refused to be interviewed by the Department for Work and Pensions or attend court with her.

Miss Gowland added: 'She accepts responsibility for her actions and that it was her that provided the information that resulted in the overpayments and has had money she's not entitled to. She's extremely sorry for that.'

She said Stone had suffered a mental breakdown following the death of her grandfather in November 2006.

Clive Astley, chair of the bench, sentenced Stone to a 12-month community order with 240 hours unpaid work which was reduced to 160 hours because of her guilty plea. She was also ordered to pay �100 prosecution costs.

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